Oklahoma Lawmakers Try to Defund Animal Organizations

By on March 2, 2016 with 16 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Through the years, I’ve seen a lot of extraordinarily ill-informed, poorly articulated arguments made in public settings by people trying to stand in the way of progress for animals. But rarely have I seen such a spectacle as I witnessed yesterday (watching online) on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. By a vote of 56 to 26, that body approved a bill, H.B. 2250, to make it a crime for charitable organizations devoted to animals to solicit funds from Oklahomans to support their work, if the groups spend any money out of state or do any lobbying work.

H.B. 2250, sponsored by Reps. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, and John Enns, R-Enid, seeks to deny Oklahomans the right to make their own philanthropic choices. Such a restriction by the state is patently unconstitutional, and any sensible judge would strike it down as a violation of the First Amendment. But Rep. Renegar, and a fair number of other lawmakers who supported the bill, didn’t seem conversant with the core tenets of the First Amendment, and why it’s overreaching and anti-American for them to bar charities they don’t like from soliciting private support.

The precedent contemplated is breathtaking. If lawmakers don’t like the work of civil rights groups, or gay-rights advocates, can they just bar them from soliciting money for that work if those groups work to support a landmark court case or back state or federal legislation to advance their interests? If they don’t like a religious group that does work in the state but that also conducts missions around the country and the world, will they block their fundraising, too? The “what ifs” are endless, and they draw out why this type of legislating is so blatantly out of bounds and at odds with American principles of freedom and free speech.

The authors carved out an exception for groups focused “primarily on companion animals,” but that means that groups that work to crack down on other animal abuses, like the ivory trade, cockfighting or bullfighting, the extreme confinement of farm animals in cages or crates, the seal hunt in Canada, or commercial whaling worldwide (or any of hundreds of campaigns conducted by animal organizations) would be prevented from fundraising to fight these abuses. Are these somehow not legitimate campaigns because they are not directed specifically to help companion animals?

Because it will be struck down if it is enacted, H.B. 2250 will do nothing in the end to stop animal groups from raising money. But it will cost the state of Oklahoma tens of thousands of dollars to defend this statute before it’s nullified by the courts. Does the state, reeling from the decline of oil prices, really have extra money to burn?

It reminds me of historical examples, like the time when states in the South, in the 1950s, tried to crack down on civil rights activities by harassing organizations (in addition to meting out violence against protestors), or when states, a century ago, tried to stifle the movement to give women the right to vote.

At a particularly low point in the 1950s, we saw the ugly strain of McCarthyism, and the smearing of innocent people with vague and unsubstantiated charges. It was all so un-American, so wrong, so evil.

In cahoots with their allies – specifically factory farming trade groups, cockfighters, and puppy millers — legislators are attempting to defund an entire category of work that helps billions of animals throughout the world every year. They aren’t restricting government spending, because charities like The HSUS don’t get government money (except in rare circumstances); rather, they are seeking to tell Oklahomans they know better than they do and to forbid them from spending charitable dollars as they wish.

And it’s especially convenient for them to act now. Lawmakers have put a “right to farm” measure (State Question 777) on the statewide ballot for November – to enshrine in law all existing agricultural practices, including extreme confinement of farm animals and puppy mill operations. HB 2250 is an attempt to defund the very groups who have sniffed out their plan on behalf of Big Agriculture.

So, in Oklahoma, we see the union of  SQ 777 and the defunding of animal protection groups — an effort to immunize factory farming interests against any legislative oversight and to prevent their opponents from even participating in the debate. They won’t succeed, but it’s incredibly diabolical and requires good people to call it out.

P.S. See how Oklahoma lawmakers voted on HB 2250.

Companion Animals, Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    Unbelievable. This is something I would expect only from an extremely corrupt and backwards third-world country. That it’s happening in the United States, in 2016, is astonishing. I hope the good people of Oklahoma don’t allow such wasteful and mean-spirited (not to mention unconstitutional) bills to pass.

  2. Sally Palmer says:

    This is a nightmare of evil walking among us with ghoulish smiles on their faces–a Nazi takeover for animal beings. What’s the estimated time frame on the law being struck down to serve as an example to other states? Is there any hope there’s enough good people in Oklahoma to fight to defeat the amendment in November? Obviously those of us in other states need to donate what we can to back the mass education that will be needed to fight this. We can start save Oklahoma farm animals fundraising drives to support The HSUS in their work to assure all people in that state are fully aware that the defeat or victory of officially sanctioning horrific cruelty is entirely in their hands. If only there were someone willing to do a Farm Animal Anti-Cruelty Concert to raise awareness & money! Starting now we’ll work however we can for every dollar & every vote.

  3. Barbara Griffith says:

    What the voters of Oklahoma should do is toss these politicians out of office. These politicians want to undermine the freedoms that the population of the US has not to mention the people of Oklahoma they can’t do that its illegal. The first judge that heard the case if it goes to court would say the same thing.

  4. Sarah Menchaca says:

    Please, voters in Oklahoma, do the right thing for these helpless animals! These poor pigs cannot move a muscle from being cruelly confined in these inhuman pens. They should be outlawed in the spirit of humanely treating animals

  5. Diane Hummel says:

    Don’t people understand this bill takes away our rights? Politicians call for less government and then introduce legislation denying our right to make our own decisions. I’m mystified that this bill was brought forward. It’s a sham. The state of Oklahoma moves backward every time something like this happens. Get out of my business Oklahoma politicians!

    • Susan carter says:

      Mind control! What are these people afraid of? That someone might care about an animal? I thought OK was the buckle of the Bible Belt?

  6. Donna Lysinger says:

    The voter’s of Oklahoma put these politicians out of office. Voter’s all you have to do is vote for funding the animal’s.

  7. Annoula Wylderich says:

    This is just plain shameful.

  8. Sherry Bly says:

    Any bill that hurts animals is awful, and the people that want it passed are awful too! It is now a felony to be cruel to animals! People remember who votes for and against animals and vote for the good people. These animals depend on humans to help them-they are innocent and precious. God bless animals and the good people who fight for them!! Shame on any one who passes a bill that hurts them! You do not need to be in office!

  9. Patience O'Dowd says:

    Check the legislators bringing this for an ETHICS violation in case they stand to GAIN$$$.

    This was the case in previous legislation regarding horse slaughter and everyone in Ok complained about it but did not follow through to file the OBVIOUS ethics violation.

    Talk is cheap, and tip toeing around is useless.

  10. Alice Vallejo says:

    Some people are outraged when they see this, and other types of cruelty to dogs,and domestic animals, and they should be, but what many don’t keep in mind is pain is pain, whether it’s a puppy or a pig or cow or any other animal. The conditions these animals must endure for their short lives are deplorable, and the pain and cruelty inflicted on them is unbelievable! There are many videos on You Tube, that show what livestock, poultry., and other animals go through before they hit the table.While you’re at it look up videos on fur farming. Take a look at these beautiful animals before they are bludgeoned, shocked, clubbed, boiled or skinned alive, or body slammed repeatedly. Listen to their cries of fear and pain, then next time you wear your furs, remember these videos, and see if you still feel so ” glamorous “! My point is we have to be the voice for the animals, so we can put an end to their suffering!

  11. Linda Ross says:

    I am ashamed that I am a native of Oklahoma. I am glad I no longer live there, but such idiocy could spread to other states populated by similar small minded, obstructionist elected officials.

  12. Denni A says:

    why don’t the voters in these backwards, medieval States get rid of these yokels. HSUS should take out a full page ad in one the major newspapers in OK on this issue. unbelievable the depths these animal abusers will stoop to for their special monied interests.

  13. Joanne Repinecz says:

    So discouraging to think fellow human beings could be so selfish and cruel. Beyond shameful.

    Thank you, Humane Society for all the amazing work you do. Will always support you – keep fighting!

  14. nancy messer says:

    Its good to hear that for now the issue in not on the table…however be sure that some government person looking to make money behind closed doors will put it out there again. The issue of caring for animals is so simple and not difficult to understand unless your pocket wants some free cash . I am fed up with these WELL PAID politicions, that by the way are PAID by us, these politicians are a disgrace to think that they don’t care if an animal is tortured,beaten etc and killed ..shame on all of them. They are as bad as those that harm helpless animals and should suffer as the powerless animal does may be then they would gain some level of compassion or values. By the way OK. does your bible feel its right to do such awful things to GOD’S creatures ………..

  15. antidog says:

    yes, cause you animal organizations are fraud

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